Saturday, July 20, 2019 -
Print Edition

Farewell old friend: Goodbye, Rocky

My room in the house I grew up in is directly above the front door. For many years and to this day when I am visiting in Denver my morning wake up has been right about five or 5:15 a.m., in the stillness and darkness, when I hear the comfort of the rolled newspaper thump the front driveway.

The Rocky Mountain News woke me up every morning. In my sleepy state I then heard the the more faded thump of my beloved Rocky hitting the neighbors’ driveways.

When I was little, the delivery was still by bicycle and canvas bag, almost like the way my Grandpa Max sold newspapers in downtown Denver beginning when he was just six years old.

As I got older, it was a car rumbling down the block that the paper was ejected from. I would hear the car lurch, then stop again, and another newspaper hit the pavement. The Rocky was the doorway to my day.

By the time I came downstairs for breakfast the paper has been brought in by one of my parents and sprawled out on the dining room table, the centerpiece of the breakfast.

The smell of the fresh newspaper mixed in with that of strong coffee.

The Rocky was taken apart, section by section as everyone was thumbing through, nose in the paper,  until we rotated each section and exchanged it for a different one. That is how the Rocky passed through my family’s hands and was read every morning.

By the end of breakfast the beautiful photograph and zingy headline that usually graced the front page were a bit torn for the wear, often moist here and there with a stain of cold milk or a splash of hot coffee.

Often, we would wait impatiently for one of us to finish a particular section, wondering what the chuckle or the sigh was about. Sometimes it got rolled up and came along with us, wherever we were going.

The Rocky was our morning companion — for the third generation in my family.

I moved to Denver from Israel in the sixth grade. My spoken English was good, but my reading? I needed some help. I improved my reading by sitting with one of my parents, teaching me how to “read” the newspaper. How to orient myself with the paper. The different sections, the news, opinion, cartoons,  and sports.

And so I grew up with the Rocky. At first, in the sixth grade, it was the comics. Then, as time marched on I broadened my reading from Dear Abby to Ed Stein’s political cartoon, then to columnists such as Gene Amole, and then editorials from Clifford May and Vince Carroll.

I always took a peek at Marty Meitus, and together with my mother tried many good recipes from the paper’s Wednesday Spotlight over the years. I would glance at Dusty Saunders from time to time, and see what Robert Denerstein had to say.

In many ways, the Rocky mentored me and taught me how to think.

I never thought my eyes would well up with tears over seeing a newpaper close its doors forever. A piece of our Colorado heritage is gone. What a sad sad day!

The Rocky was born before the Civil War. Before Colorado was even officially a state! It has chronicled all of our joys and tragedies, it has been the voice of our state, the soul of our city. I lived through the shuttle explosion, Orange Crush and Columbine with the Rocky. It became one of the finest newspapers in America. I shall miss it so much.

Thinking of all those empty RMN dispensers on Denver streets is eerie. I’m almost glad I wasn’t there to feel its loss so acutely when the Rocky wasn’t there on Saturday night — (we read the paper after Shabbat).

Not to sound too dramatic, but my siblings and I are in a sense grieving this loss, as far as “grieving” goes for the loss of an inanimate object, a newspaper.

My mother and I discussed which one of us should call my younger brother and break the news. He has been an avid and passionate reader of the sports section ever since he was very little.

It feels like our state flag is hanging at half mast as a gesture to the loss of this collective voice now silent, a lost link to Colorado, to history, a voice many of us cherished. 

We have lost The Denver department store, the May D&F, the Tattered Cover in Cherry Creek?. . . but our Rocky? This really is the end of an era. It kind of feels like I have lost a friend I have known since childhood.

What we definitely lost was the integrity and dignity of a mostly fair and accurate independent examiner of our government, of our community, with reportage in context, with depth, insight, character and responsibility.

We lost a voice for the vulnerable and for all of our state’s citizens. We lost an engaging mind. A caring heart and an astute eye. 

I used to fantasize about opening an old fashioned style ice cream shoppe called “Here’s the Scoop” or “Scoops.” The little boutique would be decorated with the magic and beauty of the newspaper sheets that I love. From wallpaper to decoupage art and more. Yes. Scoops would be all newspaper.

What about when you are meandering at a winter fair and purchase nice, hot roasted chestnuts and they are presented to you wrapped in folded newspaper cone shape. And the same goes for a bright bouquet of flowers cradled in the black-and-white word swathed around its stems with just the bright reds and pinks protruding. A last minute gift wrap. And more.

A newspaper is very personal. I have grown up immersed in the world of newspapers, typewriters, telex machines, ink, notepads and pencils, and now computers. From living deadline pressure, to tension over actual printing presses and everything in between — it’s in my blood. I grew up with it even before I really understood what a newspaper was.

I have an idea of the energy, heart, soul and tears that go into each newspaper that gets printed when the clock ticks over a new day or a new week. I have an idea of what the heart of a journalist or anyone invloved with a newspaper is.

These are people who care. Who are idealistic. Very smart. Curious and quirky.

I wish each and everyone of you at the Rocky blessings on the next part of your journey. May life be kind to you and invite you into wonderful, rewarding opportunities on the road that lies ahead.

Just know, the Rocky was more than a newspaper. It was a tangible piece of Colorado we could all be a part of, could all hold in the palm of our hand and be proud of. So, thank you John Temple and all the past and present people who have been a class act and breathed life into the Rocky, making it happen day in and day out. And a special thank you to Jean Torkelson, religion editor, who phoned in to the IJN after my first “View From Jerusalem” ran. It has always meant so much.

To the Rocky, so long. Thanks you for all the mornings, and for all the memories. Denver will never be the same.

Tehilla R. Goldberg

IJN columnist | View from Central Park

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